Your tired, your poor (words)

We like words. Our shelves weigh down with them. And still we look for more.

That’s why we have started an irregular column called Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor (Words), which highlights those gems that lie in the rough of our English vocabulary, bringing sparkle and joy to our days.

And our current favourite? Deracinate. So simplistic to the ear; none of your fancy diphthongs, just plain, old, honest-to-goodness monophthongs.

It’s not onomatopoeic, but there is something of the action of deracination to the word itself. To pull up by the roots; deraaaaacinate.

And its meaning is both highly specific and easily transferable to a variety of situations. The DLR deracinated the rosemary bush and moved it to the corner of the garden (which would be true but that we don’t have a garden). It can be used to describe a population that has been relocated — e.g. Afghan refugees in Iran — or a single person.

This is contrary to ‘evacuate’, which, though it is frequently used to refer to individual people (people were evacuated from a building), is only correctly applied to the larger wholes that comprise these people (the building). (This we learned courtesy of the great, amazing Wire.) Deracinating a people, fortunately, does not mean removing their nerves.

It certainly vies with defenestrate in our affections for best relocative verb.

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